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“The Donald Show”: Let The Lunacy Begin; The Loopy Side Of American Politics

Oh, joy! Oh, goody! Oh, happy day! For those of us who love the loopy side of American politics, our dream of some serious loco for 2016 has arrived: Donnie Trump in the race! For president. Of the United States. No, really!

“Wow,” exclaimed a beaming Donald Trump as he stepped onstage, basking in the cheers of a throng that had assembled for his launch into the 2016 presidential race. “That is some group of people,” he gushed. “Thousands.”

He announced his candidacy from — where else? — Trump Tower, the luxury skyscraper on tony Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The celebrity billionaire, who has splashed the Trump brand on casinos, hotels, resorts, condos, neckties, and even steaks, now wants to put it on the Republican Party. Indeed, The Donald declared that he should be our president because, “We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again.” There you go — the U.S. is a brand, like a Big Mac, the Nike swoosh or Vidal Sassoon hair spray.

As for qualifications, Trump brandished his wealth, exclaiming that only someone “really rich” has what it takes to be America’s CEO. This view that one’s net worth is the measure of one’s worthiness squares with an earlier self-assessment by Donnie: “Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy.”

Of course, smart is as smart does, so what does Mr. Smartypants propose to do as president? He claims he has “a foolproof way of winning the war with ISIS,” the barbaric terrorists marauding through Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Excellent! What is his plan? It’s a secret, he says, “I don’t want the enemy to know what I’m doing.”

The announcement was a showbiz extravaganza. Literally. The crowd was there to cheer the self-promoting hypester who wants to be president — but not necessarily to support him. That’s because some of these over-the-top enthusiasts were actors! Yes, hired at $50 a pop to do a three-hour performance as Donnie’s “crowd.” An outfit named Extra Mile Casting had been retained to puff up the audience: “We are looking to cast people for the event to wear T-shirts and carry signs and help cheer him,” said Extra Mile in an email to its list of actors who work as extras in films, TV shows, ads, etc. When The Donald Show was done, the actors were seen dumping their signs in the trash and going on to their next showbiz gig.

For his part, Trump gave a rambling, bumbling, almost-incoherent 40-minute rant. Citing his chief qualification for the highest office in the land, he said: “I’m really rich. …And by the way, I’m not even saying that to brag. …That’s the kind of thinking you need for this country.” And his immigration policy is simply, well, simplistic. He “would build a great wall” on the Mexican border to stop all the rapists and other criminals who, he claims, are streaming into the U.S. in droves. “And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.” Wow, apparently he’s going to build the wall himself! Then he added a jingoistic gringosim to this Good Neighbor policy, declaring, “And I’ll have Mexico pay for that wall.”

And what’s his economic policy, you ask? It’s a whopper: “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created,” he bellowed.

No, no, Donnie — don’t even try to blame God for creating you or your nuttiness. You truly are a self-made man, spawned from the fumes of your own gaseous ego. Yet you’re a godsend for people seeking comic relief in politics.

Such goofiness explains why Trump is starting his run for the White House with some 70 percent of voters (including more than half of Republicans) viewing him UNfavorably. But, as a brand-name celebrity, The Donald will qualify to be in the GOP’s presidential debates — so let the lunacy begin!

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, June 24, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Is It So Hard To Call Racism Racism?”: Let There Be No (Pretend) Confusion About Church Shooter’s Motivation

This is for Elisabeth Hasselbeck of Fox & Friends, who described last Thursday’s act of white extremist terrorism at Emanuel AME church in Charleston as an “attack on faith.”

It’s for Rick Perry, who said maybe the shooting happened because of prescription drugs. It’s for Jeb Bush, who said, “I don’t know what was on the mind” of the killer. It’s for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who said, “We’ll never understand what motivates” a crime like this. It’s for Glenn Beck, who said, “I don’t know why this shooter shot people. He might shoot people because he’s a racist. He might have shot people because he’s an anarchist. He might have shot people because he hates Christians.”

This is also for the reader who called the tragedy a “hoax” perpetrated by the White House to promote racial hatred and gun control, and for the one who said, “Charleston was not a hate crime.” Finally, it’s for any and everyone who responded to the massacre by chanting, tweeting, or saying, “All lives matter.”

For all of you, a simple question: What the hell is wrong with you people? Why is it so hard for you to call racism racism?

It is not news that some people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid conceding that America remains a nation stained by racial discrimination. Bring them a hundred testimonies illustrating it and they are unmoved. Bring them a thousand studies quantifying it and they say that numbers lie. They deny self-evident truth because otherwise, they must concede racism did not, in fact, end 50 years ago, and they are heavily invested in that fiction.

Still, it is breathtaking and heartbreaking to learn that this recalcitrance holds firm even in the face of so blatant a crime. Nine people dead following an attack upon a storied African-American church. The alleged killer: Dylann Roof, a 21-year old dropout with a Moe Howard haircut whose racist motivations were pretty clear to authorities from the beginning and have only become clearer since.

He said he wanted to shoot black people. You don’t get plainer than that.

Yet, even in the face of this utter lack of mystery, some of us professed confusion about the killer’s motives.

An “attack on faith”? Only the “War on Christmas” delusions and anti-gay fixations of Fox could make this about that.

“All lives matter”? Of course they do. But what is it about the specificity of declaring “Black Lives Matter” that some people object to? What is it they find problematic about acknowledging that black lives in particular are under siege in this country? It certainly wasn’t “all lives” Roof sought to snuff out when he entered that church.

And Glenn Beck’s professed confusion about the shooter’s motive? It is simply bizarre that a man who once famously dubbed President Obama “a racist” based on no evidence beyond the voices in his own head has such difficulty being that definitive about a white man who drove 100 miles to shoot up a black church.

A few days ago, a Toronto Star reporter tweeted video of a mostly white crowd that marched through Charleston chanting “Black Lives Matter.” God, but that was a welcome sight — ice-cold lemonade on the hottest day in August. It was a stirring, needed reminder that compassion has no color.

All this obfuscation and pretend confusion, on the other hand, is a less welcome reminder that, for all the undeniable progress we have made in matters of race, there remain among us not simply moral cowards, but far too many moral cripples hobbling about on stumps of decency and crutches of denialism.

Last week, nine people were slaughtered in a house of God for no other reason than that they were there, and they were black. It is a sad and simple truth that some of us, for some reason, have not the guts to say.

For that, they should be profoundly ashamed.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 24, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Emanuel AME Church, Racism, White Supremacy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Reclaiming The Turf”: On Our Own Terms, Running On Issues That Have Traditionally Been The Staple Of A Democratic Agenda

I’m growing increasingly weary of the kind of political analysis exemplified most recently by Dana Milbank. He takes a look at some recent polling that suggests more people are identifying themselves as liberal and prefers this explanation.

A third theory, which I find compelling, is that the rise in liberalism is a backlash against the over-the-top conservatism displayed by the tea party movement. The Pew Research Center and others have documented a dramatic increase in ideological polarization within political parties over two decades. The Republican Party has long been dominated by conservatives, and the recent rise in liberalism among Democrats may be a mirror image of that — the beginnings of a tea party of the left.

A “tea party of the left?” Oh puhleeze!

Let’s spend just a moment recapping some history. First of all, with the routing that Ronald Reagan gave Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, a lot of Democrats decided that it was time to moderate and play some ball on Republican turf. That gave us things like “the era of big government is over,” signing on to the need to reform welfare, and a big push to “get tough on crime.” The overall conversation felt – to many of us on the left – like it was being based on Republican terms.

And then came eight years of Bush/Cheney. As I wrote previously, by the end of their term it was clear that Republican policies had left us mired in two wars in the Middle East, careening towards a second Great Depression, and a federal deficit that was ballooning out of control. At that point, smart pundits knew that the real 2008 presidential election was the one that happened in the Democratic primary. Whoever won that one was likely to be our next POTUS because – no matter how loudly the right wing screamed – the majority of Americans were done with Republican policies.

It was in that scenario that the tea party was born – stoked by the racist fears of this country having elected our first African American president. As just one example of how radical these folks are, let’s remember that they are the ones who wanted to blow up the entire global economy rather than raise the U.S. debt ceiling. That their “establishment” accomplices were willing to take us to that brink on a couple of occasions tells us all we need to know about how radicalized the Republicans have become.

Now we have had six and a half years of a Democratic President who ended those two wars, has presided over the longest expansion of private sector job growth in our history and provided millions of Americans with access to health care. The candidate most likely to be his successor is running on such non-radical notions as raising the minimum wage to keep up with inflation, investing in infrastructure, addressing climate change, immigration reform, criminal justice reform and expanded educational opportunities.

In other words, Democrats are reclaiming the turf. That means having the conversation on our own terms and running on issues that have traditionally been the staple of a Democratic agenda. That they also happens to align with the views of a majority of voters in this country means that it is the opposite of tea party extremism. The mirror Mr. Milbank sees is the one Democrats are holding up to reflect the views of the people they’re running to represent.

That’s what is making it cool to be a liberal again.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 21, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Conservatism, Democrats, Liberals | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Gets To Be A ‘Neutral Observer’ On Race?”: It’s Hard To Be Neutral On A Moving Train

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, host Chuck Todd asked Gerald Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau chief, about the inherent challenges President Obama faces when discussing issues of race. “I’ve talked to people close to him,” Todd noted. “The president is self-aware that when he talks about race he thinks it polarizes the conversation and therefore he can’t – it defeats the purpose that he wants to have.”

It’s a perfectly fair point. The way in which the president approaches these issues is complex, and it’s not unreasonable to think the White House addresses these debates differently, in part because of expectations surrounding public reactions.

But something Seib said in response stood out for me:

“Yeah, and this is the great irony I think of the first African-American president. In some ways, he finds it harder to talk about race because he carries, you know, his own background into it obviously. He’s not seen necessarily as a neutral observer.”

This got me thinking: who gets to be a “neutral observer” on matters of race? And why can’t President Obama be one?

If the point is that the president, as an African-American man, is shaped by his experiences and background, all of which contribute to his personal feelings about race, I’ll gladly concede the point. But therein lies the rub: aren’t we all shaped by our experiences and background? Is it not true that every American, regardless of race or ethnicity, draws conclusions about these issues based on what we’ve seen, felt, and lived?

I’m sure Seib didn’t intend for his comment to be controversial, but his remark raises some obvious questions that deserve serious answers: are any of us neutral observers when it comes to race in America? Does our lack of neutrality matter or make our perspectives less valuable? Or more?

It reminds me a bit of the criticisms center-left Supreme Court justices have received after officiating at same-sex weddings. For some on the right, this is an automatic disqualifier when it comes to ruling on the constitutionality of marriage equality – these jurists, the argument goes, can’t be “neutral observers” because they know gay people, apparently like and respect gay people, and have been a part of weddings involving gay people.

But pure “neutrality” is a tricky thing to find. If a justice refuses to officiate at a same-sex wedding, is he or she better able to consider the constitutionality of marriage equality? What about if he or she officiated at an opposite-sex wedding? If a justice is outwardly hostile towards the LGBT community, is he or she suddenly better suited to hear the case?

To borrow an overused cliche, it’s hard to be neutral on a moving train.

Debates about race, bigotry, and justice are always multifaceted, but we all bring our own baggage onto the train with us. To assume there are some among us who have the privilege of serving as a “neutral observer” is a mistake.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, June 22, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Meet The Press, Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“One Of The Most Powerful Tools White-Power Groups Have”: A History Of Hate Rock From Johnny Rebel To Dylann Roof

What makes a young man a racist killer? Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old charged for the murder of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston last week, was “normal,” his cousin told a reporter, “until he started listening to that white power music stuff.” It’s not clear exactly what Roof was listening to or how it influenced him. But it wouldn’t be surprising if music were one of the channels through which his racism crystallized; hate rock is one of the most powerful tools white-power groups have to spread their ideology to young people.

Christian Picciolini was a middle-class teenager from the suburbs of Chicago who loved punk rock. In the late 1980s he started listening to Skrewdriver, a British band formed in the regular punk sphere that morphed into a notorious neo-Nazi group. “When I heard the white-power lyrics I felt like they spoke to me,” Picciolini recalled. “My neighborhood was rapidly changing, I knew people whose parents were out of work because of minorities taking their jobs—at least, that’s what I thought at the time.” He was attracted to the aggressiveness of the music, to the way it channeled his angst. Yet he perceived its message to be a positive one. “It seemed like they were asking people to stand up and protect their neighborhoods and families. I realized later they were calling for violence.”

Picciolini says that music was the “primary” reason he became a skinhead; he didn’t come for the racism, but he absorbed it and in turn used music to bring other kids in the Rust Belt into the fold. “Music for us was the most powerful tool—definitely the most effective recruiting method,” he says. Within a few years Picciolini was the front man for the first American white power band to play in Europe. “There’s white pride all across America/White pride all across the world/White pride flowing through the streets/White pride will never face defeat!” he sang to 3,000 skinheads in Weimar, Germany, when he was 18. After selling hate rock out of his backpack for a while, Piccionlini opened a record store, where he kept the white-power music behind the counter. He estimates that it accounted for 75 percent of his revenue.

The scene that Picciolini was a part of has been associated with various acts of racial violence. Wade Michael Page, who murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, was a member of several bands, including Youngland, a popular group that performed around Orange County. Youngland was known mainly for its song “Thank God I’m a White Boy,” a worked-over version of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Page sang vocals on “Activist or Terrorist,” a track on Youngland’s 2003 album Winter Wind that concluded: “Activist or terrorist depends which side you’re on/Defend against the invader this war will greet your son/Hey you gotta go not your home anymore/If you don’t move quietly you’ll be forced to war.”

Most white-power bands today play what sounds like punk or heavy metal, but white nationalists have channeled their ideology through everything from country to Celtic folk. The scene’s locus has historically been Northern Europe, but crackdowns on hate speech abroad eventually drove the scene to the United States. Distinctly American contributions include a Cajun musician from Louisiana called Johnny Rebel who pioneered a racist strain of country music in the 1960s in response to the civil-rights movement. His early singles include “Nigger Nigger,” “Some Niggers Never Die (They Just Smell That Way),” and “In Coontown.” He made something of a comeback after 9/11 with a song called “Infidel Anthem,” a promise of vengeance that, while heavier on the profanity, is similar in thrust to Toby Keith’s mainstream country hit, “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue (The Angry American).”

In the late 1990s leaders of white-nationalist groups became more intentional about using music as a recruiting tool, particularly to middle- and upper-class kids like Picciolini. “I am overjoyed at the success we are seeing with the White Power bands,” wrote David Lane, a member of the neo-Nazi group The Order, in a fanzine in 1998. “I must confess that I don‘t understand the phenomenon, since my preference runs to Wagner and Tchaikovsky, but the musical enjoyment of us dinosaurs is of no importance. White Rock seems to reach and unify our young folk, and that is the first good news in decades.” In 1999 the leader of the National Alliance, William Luther Pierce, acquired a label called Resistance Records, which advertised itself as the “soundtrack for white revolution.”

Though white-nationalist rockers sometimes billed their music as an alternative to the “corporate” music business, certainly the music’s potential to raise revenue along with new recruits was not lost on its backers. Resistance was bringing in close to $1 million a year for the National Alliance in the early aughts, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which “helped to take the National Alliance to an all-time high in terms of membership and funding.”

In 2004, a white power label called Panzerfaust Records launched “Project Schoolyard USA” with the tagline, “We don’t just entertain racist kids: We create them.” Panzerfaust made 100,000 copies of a mix CD priced at 15 cents apiece, in the hopes that fans would buy them in bulk to distribute to middle and high schoolers. “[W]e know the impact that is possible when kids are introduced to white nationalism through the musical medium,” Panzerfaust’s owner Bryant Cecchini (who also went by the name Byron Calvert) wrote on his website. The CD included bands like the Bully Boys, who sang about “Whiskey bottles/baseball bats/pickup trucks/and rebel flags/we’re going on the town tonight/hit and run/let’s have some fun/we’ve got jigaboos on the run.” The following year, Panzerfaust collapsed amidst a debate about whether the label’s cofounder was actually white.

White-power groups have struggled to get their music onto the airwaves and into record stores and concert venues. The Internet now offers a cheap and easy way to reach listeners. There’s Micetrap Radio, for instance, which prides itself on being “the very first internet radio program to play White racial music.” Its website streams “the noise of our white generations” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The SPLC has had some success cutting off online distribution networks: Apple started to pull white-power groups from iTunes late last year after the SPLC identified dozens of hate bands whose music was being sold through the service. The group is still pressing Spotify and Amazon to remove a number of bands.

C. Richard King, a professor at Washington State University who studies white supremacist culture, says that music is “one of the two most important pathways by which someone goes from wherever they’re at to being engaged or committed to something we might call white power.” The other pathway is the Internet, and the two are often bundled together. “If you wanted to be into white power thirty years ago, you had to show up at a bookstore or go to a Klan rally or a Nazi march. Now, one can simply log on and hit some keywords in Google and you can find the music and the websites,” King explained. While white-power music circulates now through online communities instead of between teenagers’ backpacks, King said that live shows, by giving people a reason to get together, continue to nurture white-supremacist communities in the real world.

Should the white-power music scene be more heavily policed? First Amendment free-speech rights protect hate rock to a greater extent in the US than in Europe, where authorities have taken an aggressive stance. In Germany, police developed a smartphone app to alert officers when one of some 1,000 neo-Nazi songs indexed in a federal database is played at a club or on the radio. But stricter regulation of hate speech in Europe hasn’t silenced white-power bands or dismantled neo-Nazi groups; it’s just led them to adopt more deeply coded racial language, King said.

In the United States, a better approach to burying the subculture might be to drag it into the light. “The thing that America really needs is to talk about and engage race, and to take seriously what the foundations of the music are. The music is not the product simply of disturbed individuals or people who are disaffected,” said King. “It emerged out of a much longer history of how blacks and blackness get thought about and how whites think about whiteness.”

American popular music expressed many of the ideas about race that permeate what is now defined as a fringe genre well into the 20th century. As King and his co-author David Leonard write in Beyond Hate: White Power and Popular Culture, it was only once overt racism became impolite that there was reason for “white power” music to occupy its own subculture. In the contemporary era too the boundaries between white-power music and mainstream punk and rock are more porous than one might assume. For instance, Skrewdriver was influential in wider punk circles before the band’s racial politics fully crystallized.

If American popular culture and white-supremacist ideology are no longer in explicit alignment as they once were, the idea that white America needs defending still pervades mainstream politics and culture—the way the right talks about immigration is a clear example. “We need to get those myths, those ideas, that history out. We need to talk about them and engage them seriously,” King agues. Rather than dismiss the genre, “we need to have more conversations about the content of the music—why it’s being produced, why people are listening to it, what is it that makes a young guy in this day and age wear flags from Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.”

For Christian Picciolini, what led him to the white-nationalist movement was ultimately what took him out of it. At his record store he talked with customers he might have otherwise avoided—people who were black, Jewish, or gay. As he found himself bonding with someone over a punk or a rockabilly record, he became increasingly embarrassed about the stock of hate music behind the counter. “I couldn’t deny the feelings that I felt for these people,” he says. He dropped out of the skinhead scene, and stopped selling white-power music. His revenue plummeted and the store went bankrupt. In 2010 he co-founded a peace advocacy group called Life After Hate, and this spring, he released a memoir.

Dylann Roof walked away from what might have been a similar redemption. According to reports, he spent an hour with his victims inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church before he shot them. He “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News. The day after, a crowd assembled at the Morris Brown AME church in Charleston for a prayer service. They sang “My Hope is Built,” a hymn that ends, “On Christ the solid rock I stand/ All other ground is sinking sand/ All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, June 23, 2015

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Hate Rock, Jonny Rebel, White Nationalists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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